Prime Minister Narendra Modi has written a letter to Mahendra Singh Dhoni, congratulating him on a glorious career, and describing the former India captain’s journey and influence as a sportsperson, coming from the cricketing backwaters of Ranchi.
The Prime Minister addressed Dhoni as ‘Dear Mahendra’ and called him “one of the important illustrations of the spirit of New India where family name does not make young people’s destiny ”.
This is what the PM said in his tribute – along with the relevant context of Dhoni’s life and career.
Small town boy
“Rising from humble beginnings in a small town, you burst onto the national scene, made a name for yourself and most importantly made India proud… Where we come from does not matter as long as we know where we are headed – this is the spirit that you have exuded and inspired many youngsters with.”
Dhoni grew up in MECON Colony at Ranchi, went to DAV Jawahar Vidya Mandir school, and worked as a ticket collector in the Indian Railways.
Till the turn of the century, stardom in Indian cricket was basically restricted to the big metropolises. Dhoni broke the glass ceiling.
His rise to prominence allowed many budding cricketers from small towns, and even from villages, to dream big dreams. Suresh Raina, Munaf Patel, Piyush Chawla, R P Singh – all of them followed in Dhoni’s footsteps.
“You have been one of the important illustrations of the spirit of New India, where family name does not make young people’s destiny but they make their own names and their own destinies. This generation of Indians does not hesitate to take risks and back each other’s abilities in even the toughest situations – seen in the way you took risks many a time in backing little known youngsters to deliver in high pressure situations. The 2007 T-20 World Cup Final is a perfect example of this spirit. This generation of Indians does not lose their nerve in decisive situations; we saw that in many of your innings and games. Our youth does not lose heart in the face of adversity and, most importantly, are fearless, just like the team you led.”
India played against Pakistan in the final of the inaugural T20 World Cup in South Africa in 2007. The game was a humdinger.
Chasing 158 for victory, Pakistan needed 13 off the last six balls, and Dhoni picked little-known Joginder Sharma instead of the experienced Harbhajan Singh. It turned out to be a tactical masterstroke as India won by five runs. The captain took a big risk, which paid off.
The tournament also saw a last-ball tie between India and Pakistan. India won after a bowl-out where Dhoni, unlike Pakistan, banked on his batsmen to hit the stumps in the football-kind shootout.
The 2007 T20 World Cup was when Indian cricket had started to come out of the shadow of the Fab Four – Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly, Rahul Dravid and Anil Kumble. A ‘New India’ emerged under Dhoni.
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When the going got tough
“Your dependability in tough situations and your style of finishing matches, particularly the 2011 World Cup Final, will forever be etched in the public memory for generations.”
Yuvraj Singh was the form player in the 2011 World Cup. Dhoni was having an indifferent tournament as a batsman in the lead-up to the final against Sri Lanka. At 114/3, India were under pressure, chasing 275 for victory.
Dhoni promoted himself at No. 5 ahead of Yuvraj. Muttiah Muralitharan was bowling for Sri Lanka and the India captain wanted to use his experience of playing the master off-spinner at the Chennai Super Kings nets.
Dhoni went on to score 91 not out, as India sealed a six-wicket win. His winning shot was a six over long-on off Nuwan Kulasekara, arguably the most famous shot in the history of India’s limited-overs cricket.
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“I hope Sakshi and Ziva get to spend more time with you. Our youth could also learn from you how to balance professional and personal priorities; I remember seeing a picture of you playing with your cute daughter even as everyone around you was celebrating a victory in a particular tournament! That was vintage M S Dhoni.”
Off the field, Dhoni is a family man. His social media posts attest to that. In 2018, when CSK marked their comeback in the Indian Premier League (IPL) by winning the title, every player but one was celebrating. Dhoni was busy playing with his daughter Ziva.
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